Gillette, WY, to Walsenburg, CO

No pictures today, I’m sorry. I was in driving mode!

I slept poorly in Gillette and so didn’t get back on the road till nearly 7:45. At least, the hotel provided me with surprisingly decent coffee and a bit of breakfast, so I was able to get going straight away after buying fuel.

It was going to be a very long day, so the plan was to haul ass to just shy of Denver, which would take me to lunchtimeish, the perfect opportunity to pause for a breather and to face the traffic on a full stomach. It would also be half of the day’s mileage, with the second half broken up into a few stops, so the worst of the day would be behind me once I got through Denver.

So I drove and drove and drove. Wyoming is exceedingly beautiful, much like home, only instead of rolling hills, it has peaks. I saw lots of buffalo!

I pulled into the McDonald’s in Douglas to get another coffee and send a proof of life. I came in with my own to-go cup and my coffee was on the house! How many big corporations will let you enjoy a comfy seat in their building, use their WiFi, and give you coffee with you giving them nothing in return?!

It was nearly 1:00 when I got to Loveland, Colorado. I had thought to do Cracker Barrel for lunch, but didn’t want to spend that much time paused since I had errands to run after. So when I saw a sign for a Panera Bread, it was easy to change my mind. The restaurant was really chaotic, but my lunch of a cup of soup and half a sandwich (with an apple to eat later) hit the spot and didn’t take long. Then, it was time to face the Mile-High City.

Thankfully, traffic through Denver wasn’t too bad, just really thick. The trick is to stick to the second lane from the left and just coast through. Once I was past the city, I exited at the Cabela’s in Lone Tree since I needed a new pair of Keens, having worn clean through my last pair in less than a year! Silly me, thinking that I could find sandals in Colorado in October. I was about to leave when a clerk finally freed up and came to ask if he could help me. He confirmed that they had absolutely no sandals beyond some Crocs and cheap flip flops left in the main part of the store, but that I should go comb through the ‘Bargain Cave,’ where I might find something else suitable. Bargain Cave?

He took me there and I went to the large rack of shoes. I’d come in hoping to get the charcoal and black Newport Keens, which would be more neutral than my grey and light blue pair, but now I’d be happy with any solid sandal that would be good for light hiking and walking heaps in Maz. About midway through the rack, I found the brown and black Newports in 8.5, the size of my old pair! Good enough! But they looked a bit big, so I tried them on and they were definitely a half size too large! I wonder which pair was mislabeled… I was really bummed because the rest of the rack appeared to be boots and shoes, but I kept going. The very last pair of shoes on the rack happened to be sandals… and they were black and charcoal Newport Keens. In a size 8. I kid you not. The exact sandals I wanted, in my size, and for almost $30 off. I think the shoes gods were looking out for me!!!

I promptly changed into them because, surprise, the weather has been WARM. It was so nice to get out of my boots and let my toes breathe!

Then, I drove another hour or so to the Apple Store in Colorado Springs. It was easier to find than I had expected in a large retail complex. I’m pretty sure this was my first time ever shopping at a real Apple Store. My experience shopping online through their app store and their products store has been generally atrocious (they completely screwed up my last order, for the very thing I had to pick up today), so I’m not surprised that I came out of the physical store absolutely underwhelmed. You walk in and there is no obvious place to get information. Instead, store clerks wearing grey tee-shirts with a very discreet Apple logo mill about and come up to you. There are tables set up with all the main products (computers, tablets, phones), and there are wall racks for accessories.

No associate greeted me when I came in, so I had a glance around and saw the rack with the adapters at the far end of the store. Of course, the one I wanted, the Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter (so I can hardwire my Mac to the internet this winter) was at the very top of the rack, out of reach. I pretended to reach for it and that got someone’s attention. He got me what I needed then told me to go back to the front of the store and someone would check me out. Did that and that clerk passed me off to someone else in the middle of the store. This third clerk rang me up using a handheld device, then headed somewhere out of my line of sight to get my change. When he came back, he asked if I wanted an emailed or printed receipt. Since this was a business expense, I asked for a printed one. He hit a button on his POS device, then bent down under the table in front of him that held a bunch of iPads and came back up with my receipt!

Talk about inefficient! Yes, the store looks neat and slick, but that was a lot of extra steps since they don’t have an actual till area. I was not impressed and, in fact, felt very intimidated since they tried to upsell me by asking if I was sure I didn’t need anything else and did I want to look at the new iPhones (no thank you, I’ll be getting a free upgrade in the spring)? Apple’s products are great, but I much, much, much prefer shopping at a reseller that knows how to actually sell things!

That was my last stop, so I just had another hour and a bit left to do in the setting sun to reach Walsenburg. I would have liked to get closer to Santa Fe, but I was going to arrive at just shy of 6:00, so that was really as far as I could go since I avoid driving in the dark. By the time I came out of Safeway in Walsenburg with a banana for tomorrow morning, registered at the motel, and brought my bags into the room, it was dark. I actually had to pull out my warm weather clothes, something I wasn’t planning to do till Nogales at the earliest! Even with the sun down, the evening was really pleasantly warm!

I headed to Corine’s restaurant, practically next door, for dinner, which was world apart from the last meal I had there. I guess the moral of the story is not to have the special? I had the chicken fajitas this time and they were excellent! The guac was particularly delicious. I wish I had a fridge here so I could have brought back leftovers, but the portion wasn’t ginormous and I made it through while chatting with a lovely lady from Arkansas.

The Anchor Motel is just as acceptable as it was about five months ago and only $50 a night. Even with my $92 room last night (!!!), I am going to be well under budget for accommodation since I got such a good deal in Nogales. Fuel is also much cheaper than I had budgeted for, so even with the higher prices in Mexico, I’ll be well under budget for that, too. Pretty sure this is the first trip of my life that’s going to cost me less than I had budgeted for!

I’m meeting John for brunch in Santa Fe tomorrow, then we’ll see how far I get. I just realised that I’ll gain an hour Monday so if I want to stop early tomorrow, and do a longer day Monday, that will be fine. I just have to make sure I have time to stop at the Walmart in Benson to do my final errands (and figure out how to fit a few boxes of cat litter into my truck) and not get to Nogales tooo late. Hopefully, the shoe gods will still be with me and I’ll find a pair or two of Earth Spirit brand sandals to supplement my Keens for when I want to dress up a bit more. I still have the pair I picked up in May, of course, but I’m afraid I’ll wear them clean through before the winter’s over. It doesn’t matter how much I pay for a pair of sandals, they rarely last me longer than a season, so I’m glad that Earth Spirit is such a reasonably priced brand for the quality you get. Wish I could say the same for Keen…

Off to bed. I want to be on the road by 7:00 tomorrow!

Scobey, MT, to Gillette, WY (and Devils Tower National Monument at Very, Very, Very Long Last)

My first stop after the border was fuel, which was only about $2.74, and which would be very likely the most expensive I’d experience on the U.S. leg of my trip, a very good start!

There’s basically nothing in this part of Montana, so I just drove and drove and drove until I got to Miles City, where I had a quick lunch and checked in that I’d made it across the border.

Then, there was a whole lot more of nothing as I headed towards the Wyoming border, stopping in Broadus for more fuel.

This part of Wyoming is just like home, only with more trees!

I caught my first glimpse of Devils Tower around 3:15, from an angle I’d never seen in pictures, with it rising above the tree tops like a shark’s fin.


I was exhausted by this point and so disappointed to finally be there in absolutely perfect hiking weather so late in the day. The views from the highway were quite good and I decided that I wouldn’t get my $10’s worth out of the access fee. But just before the turnoff to the entrance to the monument, I had a thought: my interagency pass that I bought last year! I pulled over and took it out of my centre console (I can’t believe I still had it so handy!). October 2015 was punched out. I couldn’t remember if that meant the card was good till the end of September or the end of October so I went to the entrance to find out. It was still valid all the rest of this month! So I drove the 3 miles up to the base of the monument.

Finally saw some fall colours on the way!



The monument is a place of immense power. It’s not just a bunch of rock columns popping out of the ground. I’m so glad I got closer because I couldn’t see the incredible textures until I got up close.



At its base is a boulder field that reminded me of the Chilkhoot Trail. (For those who track such things, that is NOT once ubiquitous pink hoodie. I found a similar one in my new size and it was like meeting up with an old friend! And I have no idea why I’m leaning that way…)


Even though I was mentally exhausted, I had physical energy to burn, so I decided to do the 2KM hike around the base of the monument! It’s all paved, but hilly. There were places with amazing views to the valley below. I enjoyed the fresh air and scent of the ponderosa pines.


I was surprised by the colour of the monument, a bright lime green.


I could imagine people taking shelter from the rain under this overhang.


Wonder what these holes were for…


I had fun watching this little guy eat his lunch.


There hasn’t been a major rock fall from the monument since 1906, so these boulders predate then.


The monument is a tricky place for the Parks Service to manage. They consider rock climbing an acceptable sport, but that clashes with Native American beliefs in the holy nature of the site. A compromise is that there is no climbing of the monument during the entire month of June. A permit is required to climb to the top and you have to check in when you get down. Needless to say, there’s no chance of my ever seeing the top, but it’s apparently a fairly level surface about the size of a football field.

Detouring to Devils Tower was definitely worth my time today and I’m very grateful that my interagency pass was still valid.

From there, it was an hour to Gillette. I was in absolutely no mood to shop for a room, so I took the first one I enquired about and then walked across the street to the Applebee’s for dinner. I haven’t been there in a year and boy as it changed! Most of the menu is the same, but it is now really crazy expensive! The steak dinner I was looking forward to that would have cost $15 with a beer and the tip a year ago would have been over $30 tonight! Forget that! I ordered their beer special for $2.50, thinking it would be a tiny glass, and it was HUGE. Exactly what I wanted after a long day on the road! I chose a reasonably priced chicken and bacon wrap that was really delicious and satisfying. Got back to the hotel and the lady at the desk insisted on giving me a cookie (a soft chocolate one with white chocolate chips, hard to resist), so I had dessert, too. 🙂

Tomorrow is going to be another very long haul and I have two shopping stops to make so I’m going to turn in early and hope that I sleep well and can be on my way earlyish, and by that, I mean no later than 9:00, although, really, it should be 7:00. Hopefully, the traffic through Denver will be okay. I really should have done another hour today, but Gillette really was my limit!